Anyone who has been in the CTC for a couple years know of my past worship of mid-major leagues such as the old Colonial and the Missouri Valley. But, with the destruction of the CAA and the relative staleness of the MVC, there is a hole there ready to be filled. I thought for a while it would be the Horizon, but it just never did it for me. I also flirted with the NEC and the A-Sun, but the basketball just isn’t good enough top to bottom. But, I think I have found my home. I LOVE THE MAAC, and I am ready to announce that it is officially my favorite mid-major league. The basketball is very good top to bottom with a fascinating variety of styles of play from run-and-gun Iona to physically defensive Manhattan to well-coached motion offense and long-range shooting of Canisius to the athletic ball-screen offense of newcomer Quinnipiac. It was another great season in the MAAC, and I am as excited for this wide open tournament as any tournament all week.
Surprisingly, this wide open field actually produced a majority opinion on its champion – and it isn’t the top seed. The Manhattan Jaspers were the MAAC title pick of 14 of the 25 entries. Top-seeded Iona got 6, and the wide-openness was shown in the other 5 as two went to #4 Canisius, two went to #5 Siena, and one even went for #6 Marist to win four games in four days. No one took #3 Quinnipiac (and, my CBC future might depend on us all being wrong about that). The 11th-seeded Purple Eagles of Niagara actually had two people pick them to reach the semis. Lohse is the current MAAC title holder and will try to defend his title this year to join Bry as the only two-time MAAC champion.
CHAMPIONSHIP (March 10th – 30 points)
#1 Iona vs #2 Manhattan
And, my favorite conference comes through with a fantastic tournament that should conclude with one of the best championship games you will see in either week. The athletic, run-and-gun Iona Gaels take on the deep, physical, talented roster of Manhattan in what could be a classic. If you like quality basketball that pits contrasting styles of play between two teams that really get after each other, then this is must-see hoop. Iona crushed Rider in the quarters and then snuck by a really good Canisius team in the semis. Manhattan had two comfortable wins over Saint Peter’s and Quinnipiac to get here. These two teams met just last week in Draddy Gymnasium on the Manhattan campus, and the Jaspers prevailed 80-77 in overtime in one of the better games I have seen all year. Anything close to a repeat of that here with everything on the line will be fantastic.
2nd-seeded Manhattan is the more highly-supported team here, as 14 people (Alexi, Becks, Bry, Caleb, Chris, Colton, Doogan, J, Mac, Primm, RDoc, Stritts, Stumpf, Teddy) took the Jaspers as their MAAC champion and only 6 (Gersh, GrossJr, GrossSr, Lohse, Scoot, Stri) took the Gaels. Dave, Lazarow, Lynch, PapaCim, and WaTers have nothing to gain here, as their MAAC champs didn’t make it. An Iona win will give Lohse back-to-back MAAC championships. If Manhattan wins, Mac will complete a perfect 2014 MAAC bracket.
Manhattan 71 – Iona 68
For the first time since Bobby Gonzalez, the Jaspers are going Dancing! Manhattan’s defense was stellar, holding one of the most dynamic offenses in the nation to just 68 points on 44% from the floor. Depth, depth, and more depth were the biggest reasons for this title for Manhattan, as they go 10-deep and just outlasted Iona, who only goes 6-deep and had foul trouble to boot. It should be interesting to see how the Committee seeds Manhattan (I’d say in the 13 range) because this is going to be a live ‘dog in the next tournament.
14 people (Alexi, Becks, Bry, Caleb, Chris, Colton, Doogan, J, Mac, Primm, RDoc, Stritts, Stumpf, Teddy) got this championship pick correct. 6 missed out on Iona. Mac completes the second ever perfect MAAC bracket and takes the crown.
SEMIFINALS (March 9th – 20 points each)
#1 Iona vs #4 Canisius
Well, we got the semifinal double-header I was hoping for. The top 4 teams in the MAAC all survived their quarterfinal matchups, including #1 Iona, who hammered Rider in the second half, and #4 Canisius, who survived a hard-fought battle with Siena. Now, the two get to face off for the right to play for the MAAC championship on Monday night. Sean Armand and Billy Baron are two guys that are worth tuning in for.
6 people (Colton, Dave, Doogan, PapaCim, Primm, Teddy) have Canisius in the upset here, with Dave and PapaCim taking the Goldem Griffins to win this tournament. Lynch and WaTers have already lost this game with Siena. The other 17 all have Iona, with 6 of them (Gersh, GrossJr, GrossSr, Lohse, Scoot, Stri) taking the Gaels to win the whole thing.
Iona 75 – Canisius 72
A great first game in the MAAC semifinal double-header goes to the top-seeded Gaels in a very hard-fought affair. The start shined on this day as both Billy Baron and Sean Armand went for 20+. A tight game throughout was won by Iona’s 3-point defense, holding a very good outside-shooting team to just 7-26 from behind the arc, including a Baron miss at the buzzer that would have tied it. Canisius now will sit and wait hoping their 21 wins gets them an invite to a minor postseason tournament.
17 people got this right, while 6 missed a nice upset pick. Gersh, GrossJr, GrossSr, Lohse, Scoot, and Stri keep alive their MAAC champ.
#2 Manhattan vs #3 Quinnipiac
Manhattan and Qunnipiac round out the great foursome on display in Springfield on Sunday. The Jaspers put away Saint Peter’s in the quarters, while QU edged a pesky Niagara squad. Now, the stage is set for two teams that both play very good team basketball with very physical styles. This should be a war.
GrossJr, Lohse, and Scoot are the only 3 with QU here. GrossSr, Lazarow, and WaTers have aleady lost this game with Saint Peter’s, Marist, and Marist, respectively. The other 19 all have Manhattan, with 14 of them picking the Jaspers to win this tournament.
Manhattan 87 – Quinnipiac 68
The Jaspers did their part in the nightcap to set up a fantastic MAAC championship on Monday night by pounding QU. The game was won on the boards, as the Jaspers actually outrebounded the 2nd-best rebounding team in the nation. They also shot 50% from the floor, 47% (9-19) from three, and 80% (16-20) from the line. Manhattan is playing their best ball at just the right time and may even be a slight favorite in Monday’s title game.
3 people missed a minor upset pick here, while 19 got this one right. 14 people keep alive their MAAC tournament champ.
QUARTERFINALS (March 8th – 10 points each)
#1 Iona vs #8 Rider
The Gaels, after losing Mike Glover, Mo-Mo Jones, and Scotty Machado to graduation over the past couple of years, it is hard to imagine that this team could just keep it going in a conference as tough as the MAAC. And, maybe the loss of Sean Armand next year will be the last straw, but you have to hand it to coach Tim Cluess (who should be in line for a power conference job very shortly – and Iona doesn’t have the resources of a Wichita or VCU to compete financially with the big boys). Cluess has done it again with this Iona team, as they finished 17-3 in the MAAC, winning the league by 2 full games over Manhattan. Next step is going back to the NCAA’s for the fourth straight year. As the 1-seed, you would think that they would get a break, and, while Rider is not exactly a powerhouse, they are a really, really tough 8th-place team in a mid-major league. The Broncos took care of a pesky Monmouth team on Thursday to set up this quarterfinal matchup with the regular season champs.
All 25 people have Iona winning this game. Gersh, GrossJr, GrossSr, Lohse, Scoot, and Stri are the only 6, though, that have the top-seeded Gaels winning the tournament.
Iona 94 – Rider 70
The Gaels pushed out a close game in the first half into a rout in the second half. Iona just has so many different ways to beat you, as today it was Penn State transfer, Tre Bowman, who dominated the Broncos, scoring 28 points in the victory. The excellent careers of Daniel Stewart and Anthony Myles come to a close for Rider, but they do have a future star in freshman Jimmie Taylor.
All 25 people got this one, including 6 who keep alive their champ.
#4 Canisius vs #5 Siena
Man, that Canisius coach is really, really good. Anyone who can turn around a program like Canisius in just three seasons has to be heading for bigger and better things, right? I mean a bigger conference has to come calling soon, no? Wait, what? It is Jim Baron? The coach that lowly Rhode Island let go three years ago who then was hired in about 27 seconds? Good choice, URI, good choice. And, the kicker is that Coach Baron brought his best player over from URI to Canisius maybe out of loyalty…it is his son, Billy. Billy Baron has been so incredible at Canisius that he has single-handedly turned this program into a program that may stay competitive in the MAAC. Baron has expanded his game to become more than just a dead-eye shooter and would be my pick for MAAC Player of the Year and can win this tournament himself if he is on top of his game. The first test, though, is a tough Siena team. The Saints are still mired in mediocrity since the glory days under Fran McCaffery, but they won 4 straight games to close out the season and grab the highly-important 5th-seed to give them a first-round bye. And, again, look what that did, as the 6-seed Marist was sent packing on Thursday night.
4/5 games are usually toss-up games for the CTC. Not this one. Only 6 people (J, Lazarow, Lynch, Scoot, Stumpf, WaTers) have Siena here. Lynch and WaTers went all-in on the Saints, though, as they both have them winning the whole thing. As for Canisius, Dave and PapaCim both have the Golden Griffins taking the MAAC championship. Colton, Doogan, Primm, and Teddy all have them going to the finals and losing, so they need this one to save the top of their bracket.
Canisius 71 – Siena 65
Billy Baron had 17 points, 6 assists, and 5 steals to lead Canisius past a tough Siena team that is only going to be better next year. The Golden Griffins now get a shot at #1 Iona in the semis.
19 people had Canisius here, including Dave and PapaCim, who kept alive their champ. Lynch and WaTers both lost their MAAC champ here.
#2 Manhattan vs #7 Saint Peter’s
While Iona has an incredibly fast, offensive style of play, the second-place team in the MAAC is the exact opposite. The Manhattan Jaspers will bump you and rub you and pick you and irritate you into turnovers, bad shots, and uneven play. In fact, they force turnovers on 22% of defensive possessions (19th out of 351 D1 teams) and they rarely press. They are a terrific defensive team and defense plays very well in the month of March. They also may have the best rebounding guard in mid-major basketball in George Beamon. Manhattan will be a tough out in any tournament they play this month, and they are hoping that includes the big one. Their first MAAC test is a Saint Peter’s team that survived an overtime war with Fairfield on Thursday night.
GrossSr is the only one with Saint Peter’s winning this game, and he actually has them winning again to get to Monday’s championship. GrossJr has already lost this game with Fairfield, but the other 23 people all have Manhattan here, including more than half the field (14) picking them to cut down the nets and go to the Dance.
Manhattan 72 – Saint Peter’s 58
Manhattan’s depth was way too much for the Peacocks here in the first game of the evening session. Saint Peter’s stayed close for a lot of this game, but just didn’t have the horses. The Jaspers shot 42 free throws and forced 19 StP turnovers en route to victory. And, they only got 6 points from their star guard, George Beamon.
GrossSr misses a nice upset pick here and actually loses a finalist in the process. 23 other people got it right, including 14, who keep alive their champ.
#3 Quinnipiac vs #11 Niagara
While #2 Manhattan is one of the best in the nation at forcing turnovers, MAAC newcomer, Quinnipiac, is – literally - the worst. The Bobcats force a turnover on only 12% of defensive possessions, which is 351st - or dead last – in the nation. And, yet they are a win away from a 20-win season and finished 14-6 in a really good league. How? Rebounding, rebounding, and more rebounding. They are the 2nd-best offensive rebounding team in the country, and they give up the 24th fewest rebounds on the defensive end. And, while they don’t shoot the ball well, they hold teams to low FG%’s and limit them to single-shot possessions. This team has a shot – if they can get jumpers to fall – to win this tournament. Their first step will be to slow down Antoine Mason, who scored 38 points in a late-night Niagara upset of 6th-seeded Marist on Thursday. If Mason has anything left, this Niagara team could be a tough out. But, even if he does, QU should have enough to get by the Purple Eagles and into the semifinals in their first ever MAAC tournament.
Gersh and GrossSr are one Niagara win away from an historic call of the 11-seed getting to the semis. 8 people (Alexi, Dave, J, Lazarow, Lynch, RDoc, Stri, WaTers) have already lost this game with Marist. And, while the other 15 all have QU, they don’t see all that bullish on the Bobcats. Only GrossJr, Lohse, and Scoot have them reaching the finals, and none of them have them winning it.
Qunnipiac 89 – Niagara 80
Antoine Mason’s Kemba Walker impression was looking good for most of the first half, but Quinnipiac’s roster is just much better and deeper than the Purple Eagles. Mason did go for 28, but it wasn’t enough, as QU wins the way the always win – on the boards. The Bobcats outrebounded Niagara 42-29. QU gets a shot at Manhattan in Sunday’s semifinal.
Gersh and GrossSr miss another huge Niagara upset. 15 people got this right, including 3 who keep alive a finalist.
OPENING ROUND (March 6th – 5 points each)
#8 Rider vs #9 Monmouth
All year long, Rider was in perfect position to finish in the coveted 5th spot and earn that final bye in the conference tournament. They looked like the 5th-best team and were in that spot. But, a season-destroying 4-game losing streak to close out conference play dropped them all the way to #8, which means they have to play an opening round game against Monmouth for the right to play top-seeded Iona in the quarters. Monmouth, along with Quinnipiac, came to the MAAC this year from the NEC, but didn’t fare as well. But, they actually did better than I expected considering they are short on talent and it’s hard to take on a new league. Iona awaits the winner.
6 people (Colton, Dave, GrossJr, Lynch, Stumpf, Teddy) have Monmouth in a mild upset. No one has either of these teams beating Iona on Saturday.
Rider 71 – Monmouth 60
The Broncos of Rider, who were in the top five of the conference all year and then slipped to the 8-seed, take care of business against Monmouth in the opening game of what could be a fantastic MAAC tournament. Led by their two star seniors (Daniel Stewart, who was great, and Anthony Myles, who struggled), Rider just simply outmanned Monmouth, who put in a valiant effort but just didn’t have the horses down the stretch. Monmouth fans should be excited, though, as they actually had a decent season, despite being the 15th youngest team in the nation. The Hawks started a JR, a SO, and 3 FR this year, and didn’t have a single SR in their regular rotation. Rider will now get a shot at #1 Iona and really could give the Gaels a run for their money.
19 people got this one right. Everyone has Iona in the quarters, so there were no future implications in a pretty insignificant CTC game.
#7 Saint Peter’s vs #10 Fairfield
This opening round game is a battle between two programs going in opposite directions – or maybe this season is just an anomaly. Fairfield is hoping that is the case, as they are used to being near the top of the MAAC standings, not at the bottom, like they were most of the year. It took a 10-game losing streak for Niagara to get them up to 10th, but it has been a very disappointing year for the Stags to say the least. They will try and salvage something against a Peacocks team that enters the tournament playing their best ball of the year and probably the best ball this program has played since their shocking MAAC tournament title a couple seasons back. The winner of this game will have the unenviable task of trying to make baskets against Manhattan on Friday.
This is actually a somewhat interesting CTC game. 10 people (Bry, Dave, Gersh, GrossJr, Lohse, RDoc, Scoot, Stri, Stumpf, Teddy) have Fairfield in a solid upset pick. GrossJr has them beating Manhattan in the quarters. GrossSr is all-in on the Peacocks, as he has them going to the finals – which is two rounds further than anyone else has them going.
Saint Peter’s 65 – Fairfield 62 (OT)
MADNESS! Fairfield had a chance to win this back-and-forth game in regulation, but Marcus Gilbert missed a potential game-winner at the buzzer, setting up a thrilling ending to a an otherwise pedestrian overtime. Up 62-60, StP had the ball with just under 2 minutes left. They got 2 offensive rebounds, creating a possession of almost a minute and a half, but they couldn’t score, and Fairfield got the ball back with :38 seconds left. K.J. Rose missed a potential game-tying shot, but Maurice Barrow got the rebound and put it back (and may have been fouled) to tie the game with :07 seconds left. But, that big play only set up the heroics by Desi Washington, who drained a three at the buzzer to send the Peacocks to the quarterfinals and ended one of the worst seasons in recent Fairfield history. St. Peter’s lackluster offense will take on the suffocating Manhattan defense in what might be a somewhat unwatchable quarterfinal.
10 people missed this upset pick, including GrossJr, who lost a semifinalist here. GrossSr was the biggest beneficiary of the Peacocks drama-filled victory, as he keeps alive his out-on-a-limb finalist here.
#6 Marist vs #11 Niagara
It is one thing for a Niagara program to try and replace a highly-successful head coach, Joe Mihalich, who bolted for Hofstra late into the offseason a year ago, but it’s another thing entirely when he takes most of the talent with him. I am pretty upset about the desolution of the Purple Eagles because Antoine Mason and Juan’ya Green were one of my favorite backcourts to watch, and I thought I was going to get two more years of them. But, Mihalich took Green (and two budding stars) with him to Hofstra. He tried to bring Mason as well, but he decided to stick it out in Niagara. So, he will try – almost single-handedly – to get Niagara past an overlooked, but talented Marist team. The Red Foxes are tough and can score with anyone. #3 Quinnipiac awaits the winner here.
This, like the 7/10 game is another somewhat intriguing CTC game. 6 people (Bry, Gersh, GrossSr, Lohse, Mac, PapaCim) went for a pretty big upset with Niagara. Gersh and GrossSr went a step further and has the Purple Eagles beating Marist here and then Quinnipiac in the quarters, which would net them a cool 80 points if they get it. And, if Niagara does win this game, it will be quite the bracket-buster all around the CTC. Lazarow has the most at stake, as he has the Red Foxes winning this whole tournament. WaTers has them going to the finals, and 6 others (Alexi, Dave, J, Lynch, RDoc, and Stri) have them going to the semis. This could be - interestingly, enough – the biggest CTC game of the night.
Niagara 78 – Marist 76
Antoine Mason was going to leave with his coach (and all the other Niagara players) for Hofstra in the offseason, but changed his mind and decided to stay at Niagara and try to lead them to continued prominence under the new regime. Well, the regular season proved that you need more than one man to compete in a league like the MAAC, but Thursday night may have scared the rest of the league in reminding them that one man can do a whole lot in a one-and-done format. Mason, one of the best players in the league who is now mired on a last-place team, poured in 38 points leading his Purple Eagles to a big upset of 6th-seeded Marist in the opening round. This game actually looked like it was going to be a total blowout, as Niagara jumped out to a 16-3 lead to start the game and actually led by 24 points just over 13 minutes left. But, Marist – who had been playing some of the best ball in the league down the stretch – went on a furious 30-10 run to close the gap to just 2 with 1:21 left. But, it was just too much Mason down the stretch as a desperation three by Khallid Hart missed and Marist’s season ended abruptly. It’s hard to say if it was just one good night or a potential Kemba Walker moment for Mason, but he will have to ice his shooting arm and come back for the quarterfinal nightcap against Quinnipiac on Saturday.
This game turned out huge in the CTC world, as 6 people picked up a nice 30-point upset here. And, the big news is that Gersh and GrossSr are halfway to nailing their longshot Niagara to the semis prediction. The other fallout from this game is that Lazarow lost his MAAC champion already. WaTers also lost big, as he had Marist in the finals. 6 more people had them in the semis. This did turn out to be the biggest CTC result of a pretty interesting night of upsets.
- #1 Iona (6) – Gersh, GrossJr, GrossSr, Lohse, Scoot, Stri
- #2 Manhattan (14)
- #3 Quinnipiac (0)
- #4 Canisius (2) – Dave, PapaCim
- #5 Siena (2) – Lynch, WaTers
- #6 Marist (1) – Lazarow
- R1 – #11 Niagara (Bry, Gersh, GrossSr, Lohse, Mac, PapaCim)
- QF – #11 Niagara (Gersh, GrossSr)
- SF – #7 Saint Peter’s (GrossSr)
Previous CTC Champions
- 2008 – J
- 2009 – Bry
- 2010 – Bry (perfect)
- 2011 - Primm
- 2012 – Teddy
- 2013 – Lohse
Final 2014 Scores
- Mac – 160*
- Bry – 155
- Becks – 130
- Caleb – 130
- Chris - 130
- Stritts – 130
- Alexi - 120
- RDoc - 115
- Doogan – 110
- J – 110
- Primm – 110
- Stumpf – 110
- Colton – 105
- Gersh – 105
- PapaCim – 100
- Teddy – 100
- Lohse – 95
- GrossSr – 80
- Stri – 75
- Scoot – 55
- Dave - 50
- GrossJr – 50
- Lazarow – 50
- Lynch – 45
- WaTers – 30